The old saying is that there is nothing new under the sun. Unfortunately that is especially applicable to errors and mistakes. Many writers make the same mistakes; being aware of those mistakes helps you to avoid making them.
Writing for the Wrong Audience
Writing is to be read; but different forms of writing have different purposes and different audiences. Attorneys often begin letters with “enclosed please find” but no one would send a friend a letter that begins that way. Blog posts are generally friendly and informal; they are often written in the first person and directed to the second person. Academic writing is in the third person, very formal and uses complex sentence structure, a designated format and the technical jargon of the discipline. Review the publication for which you are writing and tailor your style to the style of the publication.
Assuming too Much (or too little) about Your Readers’ Knowledge
Again, you have to consider your audience, but if writing for a general audience, particularly if you are an expert in the field about which you are writing, you cannot assume your audience knows all the technical jargon. While most financial bloggers are familiar with the term “peer-to-peer lending” many would-be investors are not. If you mention your “peer lending accounts”, at least link to an article describing the investment. If you mention a laminectomy, at least describe it as back surgery.
Being Afraid to Write, or to Edit
Many writers are writers against their will; in other words, they are students assigned to write about a particular topic. For such writers, the hardest part is often beginning. In short, just do it. Once you’ve done a decent amount of research on your topic, or formulated a basic idea of the topic of your essay, start writing. Let the words flow; don’t count them and don’t worry about whether you are following all the rules. Get your ideas on paper first.
Too many people see editing as catching typos and grammar errors. While that is important, good writers use the editing process to re-work, re-arrange and improve upon the first draft. This is the point at which you make sure your paragraphs have topic sentences and that your paper has a clear introduction, body and conclusion. Check the order of your paragraphs; would moving one up or down improve the flow or clarity of your writing? There is no reason that your second draft should closely mirror your first draft.
Grammar and Spelling Errors
Everybody’s word processor has a spell check function; most have grammar checkers as well. Use them as part of your editing process. Then, when you are finished, close your document and go do something else. Come back, open it and read it aloud, word by word. While spell check works well it doesn’t know that you meant there, not their; you have to catch mistakes like that.
Do you have any hints for avoiding these mistakes?